Student Story: Rena McClearey

August 6, 2012 

Welcome to a new feature on the Bridging Foundation website where Bridging Foundation scholars write about a unique aspect of their experience studying abroad in Japan.

The first blog post comes from Rena McClearey, a student of the University of Oregon who has studied abroad at Hokkaido University in Sapporo for the past year. Be sure to check out the accompanying video to see the Yosakoi Soran dance in action!

Photo courtesy of Rena McClearey

Today I want to share my experience of the modern/traditional Japanese dance festival called the Yosakoi Soran Festival. This festival is a blending of the Yosakoi Festival, which is held all over Japan during the summer months, and the traditional Soran song of Hokkaido. It features a dancing style which blends upbeat, stylized versions of traditional music including versions of the Soran song, which was sung traditionally by fishermen off of the island of Hokkaido. Originally used to mark time and keep a rhythmic pace while pulling herring nets from the sea, versions of the song are combined with colorful costumes, clappers, fans and flags in a colorful swirl of action. It’s hard not to get caught up in the dance yourself, and often the crowd is encouraged to participate in the dance themselves, with much enthusiasm! I was lucky enough to experience both the festival held here in Sapporo and the performance of the Hokkaido University Yosakoi Soran team at the school’s yearly festival, which coincided with the Yosakoi festival here, which drew over 200 teams of Yosakoi dancers to the competition and over a million spectators. Just one of the amazing things I have gotten to experience during my study abroad experience here in Japan and certainly one of the most unforgettable!

Check out a video of Rena’s experience here: